Post-Crash Anxiety & Getting Back On The Bike
Cycling is a wonderful activity that provides many benefits, including exercise, fresh air, and a sense of freedom. Unfortunately, accidents do happen and crashes can occur while cycling, but, I think we all accept that it's just a part of the sport and we hit the pedals knowing full well some of the risks.
I'm probably good for one crash per year and these have included sliding out around corners, rear ending a car and more recently front flipping over some carnage. I thank my lucky stars that I've never needed a trip to the ER or had to rely on the Garmin crash detection. Most of the time we just brush ourselves off, pick up the pieces of our dignity and continue on our way.
A few cycling mates haven't been quite as lucky (Tom, pictured) and it was only after a recent crash myself, that resulted in a fractured wrist, did it occur to me that even if we are lucky enough to come away relatively unscathed, crashing still takes a significant mental toll that can keep us off the bike for an extended period of time.
Whether it's a small fall or a serious collision, getting back on your bike after a crash can be a challenging task. However, it is crucial to overcome this challenge and get back on your bike for several reasons:
After visiting a doctor about my injured wrist, who then referred me onto a surgeon, I was relieved to learn that surgery wasn't required, but a splint and six weeks rest & recovery was the recommendation. Of course, six week of no cycling was never going to happen so I very sheepishly got myself back on the bike. What started as a few nervous solo rolls to rebuild the confidence quickly turned into the regular group rides. I was stoked to rejoin the group but admittedly, there were more than a few nerves.
I quizzed Daniel James (@_danvelo) about a recent crash at the Roues Chaudes Cycling Club Australia Day Criterium and he was nice enough to share some of his thoughts:
"I think it's important to talk about crashing from both the physical and mental aspect of it. Skin grows back but I became hyper aware of my positioning and cornering for a little while (after the crash). In that crash I had someone come across my wheel so I had no control (when the crash occurred) and although I came out relatively unscathed, I took a pretty serious hit to the head and ended up with a minor concussion but I was lucky that my helmet did it's job."
Dan gave us his advice for getting back on the bike:
"I noticed that even just being back in a group made me nervous, it was almost as if I was waiting for a bike to cut me off, so I couldn't relax and just enjoy the ride. What helped me was to get back into it with a group of riders I was familiar with, people whose ability I knew so I was confident that there weren't going to be any surprises or dangerous manoeuvres.
Some people will come off and then get straight back into it, others will come off and then never ride again. How we deal with crashing is such a personal thing so it's important to just focus on yourself, maybe start with a few slower rides and ease your way back."
I couldn't agree more with Dan and what is amazing about the cycling community is that everyone is always prepared to stop and ask if another cyclist is ok. There is something reassuring about every cyclist asking "are you ok, mate?" as they ride past you on the side of the road, even if you're just changing a tyre (or having a breather).
I'm very lucky to cycle as much as I do and a fractured wrist is the worst that has occurred because we all know someone who's ended up in much more dire situations. It's those more serious crashes though, that makes me appreciate the mental strength and resilience of those riders to be able to get back on the bike after a more serious crash. Even if you're one of the lucky ones who hasn't crashed (...yet), It's only after that first crash do you realise that sometimes the mental battle goes on well after the wounds have healed.
Been in a crash? Share your experience in the comments below...
Elaborating on the fractured wrist from the article:
Had just finished Shelley Foreshore and coming along the narrow path section towards the freeway. A rider in the opposite direction lost balance and veered into our first rider, taking him out before landing on the ground in front of me. I didn’t have time to stop and rolled into him, flipping over and landing heavily on my hand (rookie error). Fractured wrist and a broken computer mount for me, broken shifter and fractured shoulder for Tom. The other guy was OK. Even at low speeds there was a fair bit of damage to bikes and bodies.
A few months back I was in a group ride about to turn into a steam labs cafe for our coffee stop. My mate behind me didn’t realize I was stopped and rear-ended me. I pretty much slid down the road on my hands and knees for a few meters in front of everyone at the shop. I was okay but it was pretty embarrassing!
I got tangled up with a fellow rider in mid-August 2022 and went down hard on my left side. Knew enough not to stick my arm out so I decided to take the fall with the left side of my body. Unfortunately, my left hip took most of the impact and pushed my left femur into my left pelvis, breaking it into about 5 pieces, which required a plate with 7 screws to bring it back in place. One week in the trauma center and 4 months of therapy I have been riding on my trainer for the past couple of months. Turns out that my bone density is compromised and I’m on the verge of osteoporosis. I do plan to go out in the Spring again (live in USA), but I am a little apprehensive knowing that my bones are not at their peak strength. I will take it slow and easy in the beginning.
Saturday February 4th 2023, a motorbike hit me from behind. Few seconds before I hit the tarmac I saw his front wheel coming close to my left. Not sure if it was intentional or not. My helmet took the blow but prevent me from serious head injury. Till now I still feel sore but that doesn’t stop me getting on my bike again.
Hit a pedestrian on a bike only path mid November, broke shoulder detached CC ligament broke collarbone and 5 ribs. 13 weeks off work, 10 off the bike.